Twenty-five years of management by the right, and now Rive-de-Gier falls back into the hands of the Communists, who already ruled the city from 1977 to 1995. It was on June 28, during the second round of municipal elections. postponed due to the coronavirus. Barely elected mayor, Vincent Bony, 49, former director of a printing press, had only a “very short time” to savor the reconquest of the fourth city of the Loire, with its 15,000 inhabitants. The next day, we had to get to work. And, to all the projects that the new councilor takes on in “binomial” with his first assistant, Caroline Benoumelaz, has been added the worst health crisis for a century. If the first wave had rather spared the department, the second surges in this popular valley, wedged between the slopes of Mont Pilat and the Monts du Lyonnais, overlooked by the A47 motorway. Here, 35% of the tests are positive.
In Rive-de-Gier, this November 12, the sidewalks are almost empty and the few passers-by remain masked. The second confinement went through there. On the other hand, the Nelson-Mandela course – the main artery of the city, which covers the Gier – sees its share of cars. The long street leads to the imposing town hall, itself dominating a huge half-empty parking lot. It is 10 am when Vincent Bony opens the door of his office, still rather impersonal, located in a corner of the first floor of the town hall. The one who is also vice-president of Saint-Étienne Métropole has just finished an interview with one of the municipal councilors of his majority. As a hello, he has to be content with a fist check. From the outset, he lets go: “I did not want to take over Jean-Claude Charvin’s office. I exchanged it with that of the Director General of Services to mark the difference with my predecessor. “
At the end of the day, head to the free screening center installed in October,
in the Jean-Dasté auditorium, with the help of the town hall and liberal nurses. © Jean Quatrini
“40,000 masks found in the attic”
The new mayor remembers taking office in early July. An arrival at the helm turned upside down by a virus which has already sent some of its employees to the mat, for several weeks, but also by a previous majority which did not facilitate the transition, with a non-adopted 2020 budget. Vincent Bony would have gone well with this jump in the big ice-water bath, especially since it was followed by a new discovery: “40,000 masks well packed in the attic”, ordered by the outgoing team , but not yet distributed to an economically fragile population (the unemployment rate was 19.5% in 2017). “With the elected officials, we spent several days packaging the masks in envelopes and then distributing them to the 7,000 mailboxes in Rive-de-Gier,” says Vincent Bony. A renewed operation when Jean Castex announces, on October 29, that the mask is compulsory for 6-11 year olds in schools.
at 11 a.m., the media library
In disaster, the municipal team approached companies to find masks suitable for the youngest, which it will distribute free of charge the following Monday in schools. Cost of the initiative: 28,000 euros. “The management of a city by communists is to help those who need it most”, explains the one who joined the PCF in September 1992. He nevertheless regrets being “between a rock and a hard place. anvil ”, enduring the announcements of the government while being“ the first political leader that citizens have on hand to express their anger ”.
At 11 am, head to the Louis-Aragon media library, located a hundred meters from the town hall. When he arrived, he found the door closed: like all libraries, this one had to close as soon as the reconfinement was announced. The director, Anne Machado-Garat, finally opens for a meeting devoted to the continuity of cultural public services, while the arts are under wraps. Jean-Bernard Thiriet, director of the conservatory, is also present. In this sadly empty media library, Vincent Bony came to say “bravo and thank you” to those working in the field who have adapted their practices. And conversely: “The city’s IT department has helped us a lot to continue giving online courses to 280 students,” says Jean-Bernard Thiriet. He believes that this arrangement is essential, because it offers “breathing space for children facing everyday problems”. As for the media library, it has set up a “drive” system which, according to Anne Machado-Garat, allows librarians to “rediscover (their) advisory role hitherto somewhat forgotten”: “Users cannot no longer choose from the shelves and must trust us, so we prepare surprise packs for them according to their tastes, and it works. “
The former technical advisor to Marie-George Buffet at the Ministry of Youth and Sports then takes the wheel, to cross the city and go to the Jean-Moulin and Saint-Exupéry schools, in one of the two priority districts of the politics of the city, Grand-Pont, where he himself grew up. Along the way, it’s hard not to be struck by the number of “non-essential” stores that had to lower the curtain in early November. In support, Vincent Bony explains having “co-signed an open letter addressed to Emmanuel Macron, with Hervé Passot, the president of the trade union”, to ask for the creation “of a specific tax for online purchases to finance the modernization of local stores “. A missive still unanswered.
As soon as he arrives in one of the establishments, Vincent Bony must comply with the same rules as the first grade students, seated in front of a hake in lemon sauce, accompanied by a bulgur with vegetables. Hand washing is compulsory for the mayor who comes to observe the strict sanitary protocol established in the canteens. Immediately, he is challenged by young Aymen, whose plate is still half full. “There’s too much noise and it’s not very good,” he said, his eye mischievous. I want tacos and cakes for dessert! “If the children seem to put up with the sanitary instructions, it is sometimes more difficult for their supervisors who do not hesitate to let the new city council know that, if they were” bigger “, they could” do better “.
extracurricular At 50 cents per term
“When we built the budget, we chose to focus on extracurricular: extension of reception hours and its almost free (50 cents per quarter – Editor’s note)”, explains Vincent Bony. The latter wants to take advantage of his arrival to supervise the progress of the construction of the nursery in the same enclosure, decided by the right-wing majority. Because, if the Covid-19 takes up a lot of space, we must continue to manage day-to-day affairs, such as “urban planning files or the preparation of the 2021 budget”. But, as soon as he arrived, the director, exhausted, picked him cold, without holding him responsible for the situation: “On the day of the start of the school year, I almost turned around. We are reaching the end of our strengths… ”she blurted out, while she had to face a heavy health protocol, the strengthening of the Vigipirate plan, but also undergo the construction of the nursery, a computer theft and the degradation of its premises. “You are going through the worst possible crisis,” replies the mayor, with unfeigned empathy.
Today’s schedule is busy. Vincent Bony then went to the free screening center set up at the beginning of October, with the help of twenty liberal nurses and two analysis laboratories in Rive-de-Gier. “And the state is not helping us! Nobody rushes to do it, because it costs money, ”he says. In front of the Jean-Dasté auditorium, where the mayor remembers seeing Zebda in concert in 1990, there is no queue. “Before confinement, she went to the Garden Café (150 meters further – Editor’s note). It’s more fluid since it is only by appointment ”, rejoices David Viola, who takes care of the reception of patients. Device welcomed by Fleur Barbequot, one of the nurses: “For us, it is easier to do screenings here than at home. We support each other. “
Faced with the influx of pre-confinement patients, the town hall opened the adjacent room to them, in order to meander the arrivals while allowing physical distancing. Despite her blue blouse, mask and visor, Fleur Barbequot keeps her good humor: “It’s like at Disneyland! »But with a cotton swab in his nostrils as well …
In this room, the singer Charlélie Couture was to come and give a concert. He canceled twice. And this is not the only moment of rejoicing deprogrammed because of the coronavirus. For example, from December 8, like every year, the Christmas festivities were removed, as was the July 14 fireworks display, which could not be fired. Once the peak of the health crisis has passed, Vincent Bony promises “moments of celebration”, like the 150e anniversary of the Paris Commune, which he intends to celebrate, because “the hardest part in all this is not being able to bring people together”.